Virtual Reality – Can it Cure Your Fear of Public Speaking?

Got a presentation coming up? Between keeping your thoughts straight, sticking to the time limit and braving an audience, public speaking can be challenging and incredibly daunting.

If you googled your way to this article, you are likely to be either nervous, scared, panicking, or completely paralyzed by the thought of having to speak in front of an audience. If you belong to the latter category, you’re probably ready to consider all options to prevent this from happening. Most likely, you aren’t left with much of a choice but to find a way to overcome your fear of public speaking.

You’ve read all the known tips that could help you give a good presentation, and while they are certainly helpful, they’re not taking your fear completely away. So what if you had the opportunity to practice in front of a live audience, in a way that would make you more comfortable with the situation, and boost your confidence. Is this possible?

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy

Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET)  has become a proven method to treat anxiety disorders. It involves your gradual exposure  to the situation that causes you anxiety without any danger. Numerous studies have already demonstrated the effective treatment of anxiety disorders, such as the fear of public speaking, using VRET.

Expose yourself to your deepest fear. After that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.” – Jim Morrison

No doubt you understand the above quote by Jim Morrison in a rational sense, but emotionally this may seem like a gigantic paradox quite simply because facing your fear is the very last thing you want to do. However, there is certainly truth to his quote as I have personally discovered.

Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking Using Virtual Reality

A number of years ago, I discovered that I had a strong fear of heights.  I did this while working on a roof replacing tiles for a relative.  I climbed onto the roof, started walking across to where I was to commence work, looked down, and almost fell off the roof as the severe panic attack hit me. My immediate reaction following this event was to see if I could get over my fear.  How I did this was probably a little extreme, I decided to jump out of a plane (with a parachute naturally).  While my co-jumper had to physically force me out of the plane on my first jump, the experience was highly effective in aiding me in overcoming my fear of heights.  In fact, I have now jumped out of 3 planes since my first.  Is my fear completely gone?  No, I still feel a light tingling of fear as I stand next to an edge.  My fear is greatly reduced however and I no longer experience panic attacks as I did on that day on a roof.

Many people with extreme fear of public speaking are inexperienced speakers and haven’t had many opportunities to become accustomed with presenting to an audience. They haven’t had the chance, or avoid that chance, because of their fear, thus entering a negative spiral.

Well you might be pleased to know that I have stumbled across a new and very safe method to aid you in overcoming your fear of public speaking. There are now a number of virtual reality apps designed to help curb your fear. Virtual Speech is one of these apps and lets users practice for upcoming speeches by putting them on stage or in the conference room (virtually).

The app is available for Samsung Gear VR, Android and iOS users which is very convenient. Users don their Google Cardboard,  Gear VR or Homido headset and step into a 3D simulation of their choosing—ranging from a 15-person office or a 400-person conference (or even a job interview simulation). Each room is full of professional-looking avatars who appear to listen, move around, and even provide realistic distractions during your presentation. Virtual Speech even lets users upload slides and visual materials, enabling them to practice visual presentations within the app.

gearvr_hero_gold
The Samsung Gear VR requires a Samsung smartphone to operate

The idea is to allow users to practice for upcoming presentations, but also to help them build public speaking skills and overcome anxiety in the process. According to the company’s website, “It is estimated that over 85 percent of people fear public speaking, in a world where clear and assertive communication can be the difference between succeeding or failing in business.” Virtual Speech claims that three to five days of training can improve a user’s “chance of succeeding” tenfold. While that claim may be difficult to substantiate, the app seems useful for anyone whose friends and family are tired of serving as a practice audience for their upcoming presentation.  Check out this Virtualspeech Demonstration to see the app in action.

This is certainly better a better way of practicing in comparison to  practicing in front of the mirror or by repeatedly reading your printed notes.  Neither of these options replicate the feeling of being in front of people watching and listening to you. The app will work best with a Gear VR headset however for those that don’t know a Samsung smartphone, the Homido is also a great option.  The Google Cardboard is great for those on a tight budget however this headset doesn’t have the comfort of the other headsets mentioned. One of the great things about using a headset that straps onto your head, is that you’ll have your hands free to gesture along with your speech bringing an even more realistic feel to the experience and a greater depth to your practice sessions.

So, if you’ve got a presentation or speech scheduled in your calendar, this is certainly a great way to practice in lieu of a real audience.

If you’ve found this information useful you may also be interested in reading about My Laser Pointer Disaster or How to Improve Your Public Speaking Through Storytelling.

Also, if you’re after a short online course in public speaking, I cannot recommend ed2go’s online public speaking courses enough.  I’ll be posting  review of their online courses in public speaking very soon.

Enjoy!

 

 

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Magnus says:

    Inspirational! Going to finally face my deepest fear, getting eaten by a croc. Farewell, cruel world!

    Like

  2. I’m glad to see you’re inspired. Perhaps try to face your fear while taking your safety into consideration though 🙂

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  3. Thank you for the nice article. Few articles properly highlight how VR is useful for overcoming fear. At the same time I am bit disappointed that so much of your article focus on a single application. There are a number of alternatives, including Virtual Orator (https://publicspeaking.tech), which is from my company. Virtual Orator is designed to help professionals and enterprises with all aspects of training public speaking, including overcoming the fear of public speaking. Another big difference is Virtual Orator only works on PC based HMDs, as simulator sickness is an issue with longer talks and in general for many people on mobile based HMDs.

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    1. Thanks for providing this additional resource and I’m glad you enjoyed reading my article 🙂

      Like

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